“Perfection is a serial killer.”
Those words by Elizabeth Gilbert hit me in my gut today.
As someone who struggles with my own standards and expectations, I constantly run into the tension of not being able to create what I imagine… yet.
Do you ever feel this way?
I’m always reminded, in the moments of doubt and questioning, what This American Life host Ira Glass says. In short: We all get into doing creative work because we have good taste. The challenge is doing enough work to close the gap between our talent and our ambitions. Our taste is always killer, and it takes a quantity of work to close the gap.
Quantity over Quality. Progress over Perfection.
“Letting what we make make us,” as Elizabeth Gilbert says. Meaning: allowing the process and the pursuit of creation to be the teacher, the gift, the lesson and the insight — without attachment to the final outcome.
I’m reminded of this every time I get on a yoga mat or enter into some form of physical activity. I’m of course doing it for the health benefits, the way it slows my mind, and for the “feel good” high afterwords. But more often than not, I have a sense of “I’d rather be doing something else (like drinking wine)” on my walk to the studio. It’s those days that my shit is stirred up on the mat, and I’m challenged to find a way to allow it, to flow with it, to breathe into it, and eventually, to enjoy it.
I notice this process with almost every creative act. Right now I have a giant canvas hanging in my studio. It’s 9 ft high and 12 ft long. Every day I have a staring contest with it, and slowly but surely, I’m taking small steps to bring it to life. First, it was cleaning the area. Then inviting a friend to help me hang it. Stapling it. Asking what message and feeling it wanted to convey. And soon, I will prep the canvas and make. But not without the initial creeping voice of, “Are you sure you’re ready?” and “Will it be good enough?”
Those voices are always there, and I’m grateful that they continually guide me toward the things I’m called to most. I’ve found that when I’m terrified and deeply drawn, I’m moving in the right direction toward expansion and growth. I’m step-by-step and day-by-day closing the gap between my talent and my ambition.
What about you? Have you been putting something off because it might be not “good enough” or you might not “be ready”? How might you let go of perfection and take one step today?
As Seth Godin’s voice always whispers in my ear, “Ship it! Done is better than good.”
This piece is from my weekly “love note” newsletter on creativity, purpose and heart-led living. You can subscribe here.